Academy of Light, 2pm, 3rd April
In typical fashion, Sunderland’s senior women’s side followed the example set by their table topping male counterparts the day before, to produce arguably their most lacklustre first 45 mins of the season in a vital game.
Wolves were desperate for a win to take the initiative in the title race and although Sunderland went on the attack in the first few minutes it was soon the team in gold who were on top in almost every department. Nerves, fatigue (three players had played 3 England matches during the week) or the shock of playing their first game in above zero temperatures since pre-season perhaps played a part in varying degrees but they fell behind on 11 minutes.
Appeals for offside were ignored when winger Chloe Jones ran onto a chip over the Sunderland defence on the edge of the box and managed to round keeper Carly Telford and slide her shot just inside the far post.
Thankfully, the Black Cats semi-awoke from their slumber during the half time break and began the second half with a little extra fight and as the game progressed they pressed Wolves further back towards their own goal.
The equaliser finally arrived in the 81st minute when winger Melanie Reay, who had twice struck the woodwork from set pieces finally beat Natalie Hall in the Wolves goal with a low drive from inside the box.
Wolves were really starting to suffer against the fitter red and whites as they went in search of the winner that would clinch them the title though they did threaten on the breakaway.
In the end neither side could add another, perhaps fairly because for either side to lose would have been a cruel blow.
The Wolves players who slumped to their knees on the final whistle indicated the relevance of the result. The Black Cats need only to avoid defeat at Stockport next Sunday (Cheadle Town, 2pm ko) to be crowned champions and reassume their place in the ten team women’s top flight.